Plokštinė was an underground missile base of the Soviet Union. This is the first nuclear missile base of the Soviet Union, an underground R-12 Dvinaballistic medium-range missile base. In 2012, the Cold War Museum was opened at the site.
At the time when the United States started building underground military bases, it was decided that the Soviet Union had to maintain its military advantage. Therefore, in September 1960, the Soviets started rapid construction of an underground military base, one of the first in the Soviet Union, near the village of Plokščiai. The chosen location was 160 metres above sea level and it could cover all of Europe, including Turkey and southern European countries. In 1960, more than 10,000 Soviet soldiers started secret works in the Žemaitija National Park that took two years. The costs of construction were comparable to the costs of building a city district or a small town.
The base was one of the top Soviet military secrets that was revealed by U.S. reconnaissance only in 1978. The base boasted of a network of tunnels and included four deep shafts that have a depth between 27 to 34 meters. They were covered by the concrete domes that could be moved aside on rails in 30 minutes. The base could stay autonomous for 15 days, or for 3 hours if also hermetically sealed. The surrounding electric fence was normally connected to 220 V, with a possibility to raise the voltage to 1700 in case of alert. The active team consisted of about 300 people, most of them military guards.
The base included four silos that housed R-12 Dvina missiles with nuclear warheads. These missiles were propelled using a medium-range liquid. They weighed more than 40 tones, including 1,500-kilogram warhead. These surface-to-surface missiles had a radius of a little less than 2,500 kilometres. No missiles, even for tests, were launched from the base.
After twelve years of operations, the site was shut down. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the site has been abandoned and not maintained. It has been visited by urban explorers, also suffered from numerous metal thefts. After the reconstruction in 2012, the former base site now hosts the Cold War Museum, opening one of the four existing silos for visitors.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.